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To train up a child

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To
Train Up
A Child
by Michael and Debi Pearl


Introduction
This book is not about discipline, nor problem children. The
emphasis is on the training of a child before the need to discipline arises.
It is apparent that, though they expect obedience, most parents never
attempt to train their child to obey. They wait until his behavior becomes
unbearable and then explode. With proper training, discipline can be
reduced to 5% of what many now practice. As you come to understand
the difference between training and discipline, you will have a renewed
vision for your family—no more raised voices, no contention, no bad
attitudes, fewer spankings, a cheerful atmosphere in the home, and total
obedience from your children.
Any parent with an emotional maturity level higher than the

average thirteen-year-old can, with a proper vision and knowledge of
the technique, have happy obedient children. This is not a theory; it is
a practical reality that has been successfully applied many times over.
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three young children. After spending the weekend with us and hearing
some of these principles, they changed their tactics. One week later, they
exclaimed, “I can’t believe it; we went to a friend’s house, and when I
told my children to do something, they immediately, without question,
obeyed.”
These truths are not new, deep insights from the professional
world of research, but rather, the same principles the Amish use to train
their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train His children.
These principles are profoundly simple and extremely obvious. After
examining them with us, you will say, “I knew that all along. Where
have I been? It’s so obvious.”


To Train Up A Child®
Copyright © 1994 by Michael Pearl
ISBN 978-1-934794-85-2
EBook: September 2009
ISBN 978-1-934794-86-9
EPub: September 2009
ISBN 978-1-892112-00-2
First book printing: August 1994
Nineteenth book printing: New Cover, second printing: July 2009
OVER 645,000 IN PRINT

This title is also available as a No Greater Ministries Inc. CD or MP3 audio product.
Visit www.nogreaterjoy.org for more information.
Requests for information should be addressed to:
No Greater Joy Ministries Inc. 1000 Pearl Road, Pleasantville, TN 37033 USA
www.nogreaterjoy.org
All scripture quotations are taken from the King James Holy Bible.
Reprinting or online posting of our books, booklets, magazine articles, transcriptions of cassettes,
videos, DVDs, or CDs in their entirety is prohibited. Permission is granted to reprint and/or post
RQOLQH WKH ¿UVW FKDSWHU RI DQ\ RI RXU ERRNV RU ERRNOHWV VXEMHFW WR WKH IROORZLQJ FRQGLWLRQV
1. Chapter must be reprinted in its entirety. Editing may be permissible, but must be
submitted to Michael and Debi Pearl for their written approval prior to publication.
2. Complete recognition must be given as to the author/source, and must include mailing

and/or website address for the reader to subscribe to No Greater Joy Magazine.
3. No copyright privileges are conveyed by reprinting/posting any portion of the No Greater
Joy materials.
4. This license to reprint may be revoked for anyone abusing this privilege to reprint.
5. This license is in force until the printing of a public statement otherwise.
Cover photograph: Erin Harrison
Cover design: Lynne Hopwood
Printed in the United States of America


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Foreword
This book could not have been possible without the many friends
who recklessly and, at the time, unknowingly contributed to the many
examples found in these pages. Little did they know that their parenting
was being scrutinized and documented.
To all the children named Johnny, I apologize. Some name had to
be used to keep all others anonymous.
Although the majority of the text bears the name of Michael, and
the smaller portion that of Debi, she played a constant role as critic and
editor. Many of the creative ideas are hers. Without her, I could neither
have been successful as a parent, nor have written this little book on
the subject.

Michael Pearl

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Table of Contents

s

To Train Up A Child..........................................1
Childish Nature............................................... 14
Parental Anger.................................................23
Tying Strings................................................... 28
The Rod...........................................................37
Applying the Rod............................................49
Philosophy of the Rod.....................................53
Selective Subjection........................................55
Training Examples.......................................... 59
Safety Training................................................69
Potty Untraining..............................................73
Child Labor..................................................... 77
Attitude Training.............................................81
Emotional Control...........................................88
Training in Self-Indulgence............................ 92
Bullies............................................................. 95
“Religious” Whips.......................................... 97
Imitations........................................................ 99
Homeschool Makes No Fools.......................101
The Flavor of Joy.......................................... 103
Personal.........................................................109
Conclusion.................................................... 120



To Train Up A Child

Page 1

CHAPTER 1

To Train Up a Child
SWITCH YOUR KIDS
When you tell some parents they need to switch their children,
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had children in my house who were enough to give an electric wheat
grinder a nervous breakdown. Their parents looked like escapees from
a WWII Polish boxcar. Another hour with those kids and I would have
been searching the yellow pages for discount vasectomies. While we tried
to sit and talk, the children were constantly running in and out of doors,
complaining of ill treatment from the others, begging to go or stay or eat,
or demanding a toy that another child would not relinquish. The mother
had to continually jump up and rescue some breakable object. She said,
“No,” six hundred sixty-six times in the space of two hours. She spanked
each child two or three times—usually with her hand on top of a diaper.
Other than misaligning the child’s spine, it seemed to have had no effect.
When we speak of consistently rewarding every transgression
with a switching (not a karate chop to the lower backbone), some mothers
can only visualize themselves further brutalizing their children, knowing
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They have no hope of conquering the child’s will. They just desire to
create enough diversion to accomplish their own mission.
Another mother walked into my house with her little ones and sat
down to talk. She said to them, “Go out in the sunroom and play, and don’t
bother Mama unless you need something.” For the next two hours we
were not even aware the children were present, except when a little one
came in holding herself saying, “Pee-pee, Mama.” They played together


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To Train Up A Child

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the girls turned the rocking horse over, which gave her a knot on her head.
They didn’t run in and out—they were told not to.
This mother did not spank her children while at my house, and
she did not need to rebuke them. She looked rested. When she called
the children to go home, one asked, “Mama, can I stay and play with
Shoshanna?” Mother answered, “No, not today. We have work to do at
home.” As he lifted his arms, his mother picked him up. Hugging his
mother’s neck, he said, “I love you, Mama.”
This young mother said to me, “My children want to please me.
They try so hard to do everything I say. We have such fun together.” She
is looking forward to having more children. They are the joy of her life.
By the grace of God and through the simple, Biblical principles
found in these pages, and with determination and an open heart, this
mother has trained-up children who bring her joy and honor.
OBEDIENCE TRAINING
Most parents don’t think they can train their little children. Training
doesn’t necessarily require that the trainee be capable of reason; even mice
and rats can be trained to respond to stimuli. Careful training can make a
dog perfectly obedient. If a seeing-eye dog can be trained to reliably lead
a blind man through the dangers of city streets, shouldn’t a parent expect
more out of an intelligent child? A dog can be trained not to touch a tasty
morsel laid in front of him. Can’t a child be trained not to touch? A dog can
be trained to come, stay, sit, be quiet, or fetch upon command. You may
not have trained your dog that well, yet every day someone accomplishes
it on the dumbest of mutts. Even a clumsy teenager can be trained to be an
effective trainer in an obedience school for dogs.
If you wait until your dog is displaying unacceptable behavior
before you rebuke (or kick) him, you will have a foot-shy mutt that is
always skulking around to see what he can get away with before being
screamed at. Where there is an absence of training, you can no more
rebuke and whip a child into acceptable behavior than you can the family
dog. No amount of discipline can make up for a lack of training.
Proper training always works with every child. To neglect
training is to create miserable circumstances for you and your children.
Out of ignorance, many have bypassed training and expected discipline
alone to effect proper behavior. It hasn’t worked, and never will.


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To Train Up A Child

Page 3

“TENNN—HUTT!!”
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they are taught is to stand still. The many hours of close-order drill are
designed to teach and reinforce submission of the will. “Attention!”
pronounced, “TENNN—HUTT!!” is the beginning of all military
maneuvers. Just think of the relief that it would bring if by one command
you could gain the absolute, concentrated attention of all your children. A
sergeant can call his men to attention and then ignore them, and without
further explanation or command, they will continue to stand frozen in
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condition the men to instant, unquestioning obedience.
As in the military, all maneuvers in the home begin with a call to
attention. Three-fourths of all home discipline problems would be solved
if you could instantly gain your child’s silence and unmoving attention.
“TO THE REAR—MARCH” translated into family language would be:
“Leave the room,” or, “Go to bed.” Without question they would turn and
go. This is normal in the well-trained family.
“WHOA, HORSE”
Though we drive vehicles, we live in a horse and buggy
community where someone is always training a new horse. When you
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eighteen-wheelers and logging trucks, you must have a totally submissive
horse. You cannot depend on whipping him into submission. One mistake
and the young men will again be making several new pine boxes and
digging six-foot deep holes in the orchard.
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to being caught and handled. He must not fear the bridle or harness. He
must stand still while thirteen children step in front of the iron wheels
to climb into the buggy. When stopped at the end of a driveway, waiting
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eighty thousand pounds of speeding truck.
Horse training involves preparing the horse to respond correctly in
all future situations to which he will be exposed. This training takes place
in a controlled environment where circumstances are purposefully created
to test and condition the horse’s responses. This is done by taking him
through various paces. To train him to stop, you hold the bridle as you lead

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To Train Up A Child

the horse, and say, “Whoa,” and then stop. Since you have a tight hold on
the bridle, he must stop. After just a few times, the horse will stop at your
command only.
The trainer establishes the tone of voice at which the horse is to
respond. If you speak in a normal tone, the horse will learn to obey at that
level. If you scream “Whoa!!” when training him, then in the future he
will not stop unless you scream the same way. One such farmer trained
his horses with a wild, frantic bellow. Most of his neighbors, who speak
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their inability to raise their voices in such vehemence.
SPEAK TO ME ONLY
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sometimes wanted to run away with the log. In moments of stress (I was
actually panic-stricken), I found myself frantically YELLING commands.
The owner would patiently caution me, “Speak quietly and calmly or he
will pay no attention.” I never did learn the art of calmly saying, “Whoa”
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hung in the trace chain. The point to remember is that animals learn to
identify not only the sound, but also the tone.
If you raise your voice when giving a command to your child, he
will learn to associate your tone and sound level with your intention. If
you have trained him to respond to a bellow, don’t blame him if he ignores
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to reach the point where he interprets it to be a real command.
TRAINING, NOT DISCIPLINE
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old,
he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Train up—not beat up. Train
up—not discipline up. Train up—not educate up. Train up—not “positive
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Parents should not wait until their child’s behavior becomes
unacceptable before they commence training—which would then actually
be discipline. Training is not discipline. Discipline is the “damage control”
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Training is the conditioning of the child’s mind before the crisis arises.
It is preparation for future, instant, unquestioning obedience. An athlete


To Train Up A Child

Page 5

trains before he competes. Animals, including wild ones, are conditioned
to respond to the trainer’s voice command.
The frustration parents experience results from their failure to
train. Their problem is not “bad” children, just bad training. The “strongwilled,” the hyperactive, the highly intelligent, and the easily bored all
need training, and training is effective on all of them.
Understand, at this point we are not talking about producing godly
children, just happy and obedient children. The principles for training
young children to instantly obey can be applied by non-Christians as well
as Christians. Although, as children get older, the character and teaching
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TRAINING NOT TO TOUCH
There is a lot of satisfaction to be gained in training up a child. It
is easy, yet challenging. When my children were able to crawl (in the case
of one, roll) around the room, I set up training sessions.
Try it yourself. Place an appealing object where they can reach
it, maybe in a “No-No” corner or on the apple juice table (another name
for the coffee table). When they spy it and make a dive for it, in a calm
voice say, “No, don’t touch that.” Since they are already familiar with the
word “No,” they will likely pause, look at you in wonder, and then turn
around and grab it. Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, “No.”
Remember, now, you are not disciplining, you are training. One spat with
a little switch is enough. They will again pull back their hand and consider
the relationship between the object, their desire, the command, and the
little reinforcing pain. It may take several times, but if you are consistent,
they will learn to consistently obey, even in your absence.
PLANT YOUR TREE IN THE MIDST OF THE GARDEN
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He did not place the forbidden object out of their reach. Instead, He placed
the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” in the “midst of the garden”
(Gen. 3:3). Since it was readily accessible in the middle of the garden,
they would be exposed to its temptation more often. God’s purpose was
not to save the tree, but rather, to train the couple.
Note that the name of the tree was not just “knowledge of evil,”
but, “knowledge of good and evil.” By exercising their wills not to eat, they
would have learned the meaning of “good” as well as “evil.” Eating the


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To Train Up A Child

tree’s fruit was not the only way in which they could come to knowledge
of good and evil, but it was a forbidden shortcut.
By placing a forbidden object within reach of the children, and
then enforcing your command to not touch it, every time the children
pass the ‘No-No’ object (their “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”),
they are gaining knowledge of good and evil from the standpoint of
an overcomer. As with Adam and Eve in the garden, the object and the
touching of it is, in itself, of no consequence; but the attachment of a
command to it makes it a moral “factory” where character is produced.
By your enforcement, your children are learning about moral government,
duty, responsibility, and, in the event of failure, accountability, rewards,
and punishment. In the here and now, they are also learning not to touch,
which makes a child a much more pleasant member of the social group.
It just takes a few minutes to train a child not to touch a given
object. Most children can be brought into complete and joyous subjection
in just three days. Thereafter, if you are consistent, the children will
remain happy and obedient. By obedient, I mean, you will never need to
tell them twice. If you expect to receive instant obedience, and you train
them to that end, you will be successful. It will take extra time to train,
but once the children are in general subjection, the time saved will be
extraordinary. Some people say, “Child-proof your home.” I say, “Homeproof your child.”
TOUCHY SITUATIONS
Have you ever been the victim of tiny, inquisitive hands? A very
young child, not yet walking, is keen on wanting to grab any object of
interest. There is no fault in this, but sometimes it can be annoying. When
you are holding a baby and he keeps pulling off your glasses, you cannot
explain to him the impropriety of such socially impolite behavior. The
little tot is not yet moved by social concerns. So, do you try to restrain
him from getting to your face? No, you train him not to touch. Once
you train an infant to respond to the command “No,” then you will have
control in every area of behavior where you can give a command.
Set up training situations. For example, using your glasses as
bait, place the child where he can easily reach them. Look him squarely in
the eye. When he reaches out to grab them, don’t pull back; don’t defend
yourself. Calmly say, “No.” If anything, lower your voice; don’t raise it.
Don’t sound more serious than usual. Remember, you are establishing a
vocal pattern to be used the rest of his youth. If he reaches out to touch your


To Train Up A Child

Page 7

glasses, again say, “No,” and thump or swat his hand with a light object so
as to cause him a little pain, but not necessarily enough to cry. He will pull
his hand back and try to comprehend the association of grabbing the glasses
with the pain. Inevitably, he will return to the bait to test his new theory.
Sure enough, reaching for the glasses again causes pain, and the pain is
accompanied with a quiet, little “No.” It may take one or two more tries
for him to give up his career as a glasses snatcher, but he will. Through this
process, the child will associate the pain with the word “No.” There quickly
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There are many things you can teach the small child at this young
age. You can stop him from assaulting his mother with a bottle held by the
nipple. The same holds true for hair and beard pulling. You name it; the
infant can be trained to obey. Do you want to wrestle with him through
his entire youth, nagging him into compliance, threatening, placing things
out of reach, fearing what he might get into next? Wouldn’t it be better
to take a little time to train him in his young and tender years? If nothing
else, training will result in saving you time.
I know a mother who must call a baby-sitter every time she takes
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OBEDIENCE TRAINING—BITING BABIES
One particularly painful experience of nursing mothers is the
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bit, she pulled its hair (an alternative has to be sought for bald-headed
babies). Understand, the baby is not being punished, just conditioned. A
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the negative associations that accompany it. It requires no understanding
or reasoning. Somewhere in the brain that information is unconsciously
stored. After biting two or three times, and experiencing pain in association
with each bite, the child programs that information away for his own
comfort. The biting “habit” is cured before it starts. This is not discipline.
It is obedience training.
OBEDIENCE TRAINING—BOWLS AND BABIES
A mother clumsily holds her cereal bowl at arm’s length as she
wrestles her infant for supremacy. When she places the bowl out of the
baby’s reach, he is led to believe that the only objects that are off limits
are those that are out of reach. To train him, place the bowl within easy
reach. When he reaches for it, say, “No,” and thump his hand. He will pull


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his hand back, momentarily look alarmed, and then reach again. Repeat
the action of saying, “No” in a calm voice, and thumping his hand. After
several times, you will be able to eat in peace.
After several occasions of responding to a thump and the word
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behavior. Always keep in mind, the baby is not being punished, just
conditioned. The thump is not a substitute rod. It is reinforcing obedience
training.
COME WHEN I CALL YOU
One father tells of his training sessions with each new toddler. He
sets aside an evening for “booty” camp, which is a boot camp for toddlers.
He allows a ten-month-old child to become deeply interested in a toy or
some delightful object. From across the room or just inside another room,
the father calls the child. If the child ignores the call, the father goes to
him and explains the necessity of immediately coming when called, and
then leads him through the steps of obedience by walking him over to the
place from which he was called.
Father then returns him to the toy and leaves him alone long
enough to again become engrossed. Father calls again. If the child ignores
the call, the father gives additional explanation and a repeat of the practiced
walk. The parent, having assured himself that the child understands what
is expected of him, goes back to call again. This time if the child does
not respond immediately, the father administers one or two swats with a
switch and then continues the exercise until the child readily responds to
his summons. Thereafter, until the day the grown child leaves home, the
parent can expect the child to drop everything and come when called. As
long as parents remain consistent, the child will consistently obey. This
“obedience training” is conducted with quiet patience. The spanking is not
punishment and is not very painful. It merely gives weight to your words.
NEVER TOO YOUNG TO TRAIN
A newborn soon needs training. Parents who put off training until
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he has become a terror long before he can tie his shoes.
As a mother begins to lower her child into the crib, he stiffens,
takes a deep breath, and bellows. The battle for control has begun early, and
in earnest. Someone is going to be conditioned. Either the tenderhearted
mother will cave in to the child’s self-centered demands (actually training


To Train Up A Child

Page 9

the child to get his way by crying), or she will wisely allow him to cry
(communicating that crying is counterproductive). Crying because of
genuine physical need is the infant’s only voice to the outside world, but
crying in order to manipulate others into constant servitude should never
be rewarded. Otherwise, you will reinforce the child’s growing selfcenteredness, which will eventually become socially intolerable.
STEPS TO OBEDIENCE
One of our girls, Shalom, who developed mobility early, had a
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to be punished for disobedience. But for her own good (and our peace of
mind), we attempted to train her not to climb the stairs by coordinating
the voice command of “No” with little spats on her bare legs. The switch
was a twelve-inch long, one-eighth-inch diameter sprig from a willow
tree.
Such was her fascination with climbing, that she continued
to climb, ignoring the spankings. Spanking is supposed to work, but
it seemed that, at her young age, her little brain couldn’t maintain the
association. So, out of desperation, I laid the switch on the bottom step.
We later observed her crawl to the stairs and start the ascent, only to halt
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attempted to climb the stairs, even after the switch was removed. She
had assumed the association of the painful switch to the stairs and my
command. I had communicated to her my will and my resolve.
EXCESSIVE DISCIPLINE
Disciplinary actions can easily become excessive and oppressive
if you set aside the tool of training and depend on discipline alone to
do the training. I observed a proud, stern father ruling his children with
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fall, especially in the presence of company. His children trembled in his
presence, fearing to incur his displeasure. I wondered why, if he was so
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the public arena. I was impressed, but not in the way he hoped.
Except where the very smallest children are concerned, training
at home almost entirely eliminates the need for public discipline. Yet,
should the need arise in public, be discreet with your discipline, and then
go home and re-train in that area of behavior so that you and the child will
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To Train Up A Child

TRAINING THE ORNERY AMISH BOY
As I sat talking with a local Amish fellow, a typical child training
session developed. The twelve-month-old boy, sitting on his father’s lap,
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stiffened and threw his arms up to lessen the father’s grip and facilitate his
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The child made dissenting noises and continued his attempt to dismount
his father’s lap. The father then spanked the child’s leg and spoke what
I assumed to be reproving words. Seeing his mother across the room,
the child began to cry and reach for her. This was understandable in any
language. It was obvious that the child felt there would be more liberty
with his mother.
At this point, I became highly interested in the proceedings. This
one-year-old child was attempting to go around the chain of command!
Most fathers would have been glad to pass the troublesome child to his
mother. If the child had been permitted to initiate the transfer, he would
have been the one doing the training, not the parents. Mothers often run to
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needed. But this mother was more concerned that her child be properly
trained than she was for satisfying her own sentiment. She appeared not
to hear the child’s plea.
The father then turned the child to face away from his mother.
The determined fellow immediately understood that the battle lines had
been drawn. He expressed his will to dominate by throwing his leg back
over to the other side to face his mother. The father spanked the leg the
child turned toward his mother and again spoke to him.
Now the battle was in full array. Someone was going to submit
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authority. Everyone’s happiness was at stake—as well as the soul of
the child. The father was wise enough to know this was a unique test of
authority. This episode had crossed over from “obedience training” to
“discipline for attitude.”
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as a lazy porch swing on a Sunday afternoon. There was no hastiness


To Train Up A Child

Page 11

or anger in his response. He did not take the disobedience personally.
He had trained many horses and mules and knew the value of patient
perseverance. In the end, the twelve-month-old submitted his will to his
father, sat as he was placed, and became content—even cheerful. He was
now ready to quietly sit through three hours of the most boring church
service a sleeping patriarch ever attended.
Some will say, “But, I couldn’t take it emotionally.” Sometimes
it is GLI¿FXOW WR VHW DVLGH \RXU IHHOLQJV IRU WKH VDNH RI WUDLQLQJ \RXU FKLOG
,W GRHV LQYROYH HPRWLRQDO VDFUL¿FH we know it will work to the temporal and eternal good of the child, it is a
MR\ LQVWHDG RI D VDFUL¿FH ,W LV D WKULOO WR VHH LW ZRUN WR WKH FKLOG¶V EHQH¿W
If you know you are prone to anger or impatience, it will deter
you from being aggressive in disciplining your child. You may fear that
\RXU GLVFLSOLQH LV DQ DFW RI \RXU HJR WR GRPLQDWH your own impurities for the sake of the child, for if he doesn’t receive
consistent and forceful training, he will greatly suffer.
BE ASSURED OF TWO THINGS
First, almost every small child will have at least one time in his
young life when he will rebel against authority and attempt to take hold of
the reins—as did the Amish kid. This act of stubbornness is profound—
amazing—a wonder that one so young could be so dedicated and
persevering in rebellion. It is the kind of determination you would expect
WR ¿QG LQ D KDUGHQHG UHYROXWLRQDU\ IDFLQJ HQHP\ LQGRFWULQDWLRQ FODVVHV
Parents who are trained to expect it, and are prepared to persevere, will
still be awed at the strength of the small child’s will.
Second, if you are consistent in training, this attempt at total
dominance will come only once in a child’s life, usually around two years
old. If you win the confrontation, the child wins at the game of character
development. If you weaken and allow the child to dominate, the child
loses everything but his will to dominate. You must persevere for the sake
of the child. His will to dominate must be dominated by the rule of law
(that’s you).
Let me warn you of the need to be consistent. The cat that is
prevented from coming into the house most of the time, but occasionally
breaks through the barrier, will take the occasional success as impetus to
always try to get in. However, if he is consistently kept out (100% of the
time), he will lose the will to come in, even when the door is left open.
You may scream at him, slam the door on his tail, and kick him sixty feet,


Page 12

To Train Up A Child

but if you occasionally allow him to stay in long enough to eat scraps off
WKH ÀRRU RU VOHHS RQ WKH FRXFK KH ZLOO IRUHYHU ULVN UXQQLQJ WKH JDXQWOHW
to get in. Your abuse (they mistakenly call it discipline where children are
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guard, but the hairy fur-ball will still bolt through the door when he sees
the opportunity.
On the other hand, dogs, many times smarter than cats, can be
trained either to come in or stay out on command. The key is always
consistency. If Rover learns through conditioning (consistent behavior on
the part of the trainer) that he will never be allowed to violate his master’s
command, he will always obey. If parents carefully and consistently train
up their children, their performance will be superior to that of a welltrained, seeing-eye dog.
NEGATIVE TRAINING
How many times have you observed untrained children in the
grocery store arena? A devious little kid sits up in the command seat
of the shopping cart, exercising his “childhood rights” to unlimited
self-indulgence. The parent, fearfully but hopelessly, steers around the
tempting “trees of knowledge of good and evil.” Too late! The child spies
the object of his unbridled lust. The battle is on. The child will either get
what he wants or make his parent miserable. Either way, he conquers.
PURCHASED COMPLIANCE
One father proudly told of how he fearlessly overcame by
promising the child ice cream if he would only wait until they left the
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to terrorist tactics. You are not gaining control of the child; he is gaining
control of you. All children are trained, some carelessly or negligently,
and some with varied degrees of forethought. All parental responses are
conditioning the child’s behavior, and are therefore training.
Parents who purchase compliance through promise of reward
are turning their child into a racketeer, paying for protection. The child
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businessman. If you are bargaining with a terrorist for one more day’s
reprieve from anguish, you may then strike a favorable deal. But, if you
are training up a child, you need to reconsider your methods. Allowing
yourself to be intimidated into compromise will turn your child into a
psychological bully.


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To Train Up A Child

Page 13

DID YOU HEAR WHAT I SAID?
I observed a father tell his small boy not to touch a particular
object. Having been trained to ignore mild commands, the child picked
it up anyway. With irritation in his voice, the father demanded, “Give
it to me.” The child pretended not to hear. With anger, “Did you hear
me? [Of course he did.] Hand it to Daddy.” With mounting anger,
“Johnnnieee, give it to Daddy, NOW!!” Finally, another decibel higher—
hasty—angry—threatening, “JOHNNY!! Am I going to have to SPANK
YOU?” By this time the father was aware of his embarrassing tone. He
calmed his voice, and in an attempt to bring it to a conclusion, he leaned
way out and extended his hand, making it easier for Johnny to comply.
Because of his father’s angry voice and burning eyes, Johnny assumed
the temporary posture of, “Oh well, there will be another day.” But,
instead of handing the object to the humbled, groping father, he held it
in his general direction but down close to his body, forcing the father to
advance even farther to retrieve it. The father, looking like a poor peasant
receiving alms from some condescending member of royalty, submitted
to the child’s humiliation and reached to retrieve the object. And then, in
a display of weakness, the father placed it out of the child’s reach.
What did Johnny learn from this episode? He had his conviction
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third, or even fourth time. No one expects him to. He has learned that it
is permissible to grab anything within reach and to continue possessing
it until the heat gets too great. He has learned not to respect authority,
just strength (the day will come when he will be the stronger one). By
the father’s example, he has learned how to use anger. By the father’s
advance to take the object from his hand, he has learned how to “get in the
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his small child to be a rebel.
What has the father learned? He has learned that little Johnny is
just a “strong-willed” child; that children go through unpleasant stages;
that it is sometimes a very miserable and embarrassing thing to be a
parent; that one has to watch a kid every minute and keep things out of
his reach; that the only things kids understand are force and anger. All of
which are false. The father is reaping nothing less than the harvest of his
failure to train.

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Page 14

To Train Up A Child

CHAPTER 2

Childish Nature
(Understanding a child’s natural development)

“BEHOLD, THE SECOND WOE”!
Just last night while sitting in a meeting, I looked over to see a
young mother struggling with her small child. He seemed determined to
make her life as miserable as possible—and to destroy her reputation in the
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WKURZLQJ KLV ERWWOH RQ WKH ÀRRU HQFRXUDJHG E\ KHU SLFNLQJ LW XS DQG
handing it back to him) and making angry noises that forced the preacher
to speak louder and louder. By increasing his embarrassing displays, the
FKLOG IRUFHG KHU WR SXW KLP GRZQ RQ WKH ÀRRU +H WKHQ SURFHHGHG WR DFW
as a circus clown, drawing attention away from the preacher. Finally he
insisted on procuring a neighbor’s property. When the frazzled mother
tried to prevent his thievery and rescue the stolen goods, he kicked his
legs like an eggbeater while screaming in protest.
It was enough to make you believe the Devil started out as an
infant. I am just thankful that one-year-olds don’t weigh two hundred
pounds, or a lot more mothers would be victims of infant “momicide.”
It causes one to understand where the concept of a “sinful nature”
originated.
The mother knew that the child shouldn’t be acting like this, but
due to his limited intellectual development, she felt helpless. Older children
and adults are constrained from such embarrassing public displays by
public opinion, but children are not affected by peer-pressure, threat of
embarrassment, or rejection. This little fellow’s life was one of unlimited,
unrestrained self-indulgence. No doubt, as is usually the case, his parents
were waiting for his understanding to develop so they could begin to correct


To Train Up A Child

Page 15

³EDG´ EHKDYLRU 7KH\ KHOSOHVVO\ ZDWFKHG ZKLOH VHO¿VKQHVV DQG PHDQQHVV RI
spirit took root in a void of understanding.
What is the driving force in this child, and how can it be
conquered? We need to understand some things about the nature of a child
in order to institute appropriate training.
GOD-GIVEN SELF-CENTEREDNESS
God created us to exist in a constant state of desire and appetite.
The tension in this continuous struggle provides the background for moral
development. This is most apparent in the small child. He desires food,
water, warmth, companionship, entertainment, and a dry diaper. God
endowed him with strong compulsions to taste, smell, hear, see, and a
desire to touch and feel “almost everything”.
The desires and passions in the infant are not yet complete. As he
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for things “pleasant to the eyes,” things “good for food” and for those
things that will “make one wise.” His growing humanity will give way to
a desire to build, to know, to be appreciated, to be recognized, to succeed,
to be a lover, and to survive in a secure state of being.
As infants grow, they learn to manipulate their surroundings to
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shaking the head, crying, and screaming all say, “Pick me up, feed me,
look at me. Doesn’t anyone realize I have urgent needs? What could be
more important than me?”
An infant’s world is no bigger than his needs and desires. It is
the only reality he knows. He soon learns that not only his needs but his
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of duty, responsibility, or moral choice. He has no pride or humility—only
desire. Like Julius Caesar, he comes, he sees, he conquers. He is created
that way. By nature, he is incapable of considering the needs of others. The
child doesn’t know or care that you are tired and also in need of comfort.
Because of its resemblance to adult behavior, the self-centeredness
of infants has all the appearances of a vice. But they are acting on natural,
God-given impulses to survive and seek their own pleasure. They come into
the world totally dependent—with many needs. But they soon learn that they
can have their wants met as well as their needs. So they “go astray as soon
as they be born, speaking lies (Psalm 58:3).” Before they can talk, they learn
to lie to their parents by pretending that their wants are needs. Parents rush to
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Page 16

To Train Up A Child

and moral capacity to say “No” to appetites and impulses. They cannot yet
be held responsible. They begin life in innocent self-centeredness. God
does not impute it to them as sin, but it is the foundation of sin.
TO BLAME OR NOT TO BLAME
As the child gets older, say from eight to twelve months,
the adults in his life begin to pay less attention to his demands, and a
weaning process begins. The child is made to wait, told “No,” and given
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KDV QRW VXEGXHG WKH PDQLIHVWDWLRQV RI KLV ³VHO¿VKQHVV´ SHRSOH EHJLQ WR
refer to him as “spoiled.”
Guilty, frustrated parents are manipulated by the child’s whining
and crying. The spatting begins. The kid gets jerked around. Resentment
builds. Adults begin to blame him, even compete with him.
The child feels this tension but doesn’t understand what has
caused it, but neither does he lessen his demands. He connives, calculates,
and resorts to angry tantrums. I have seen a two-year-old take a weapon
and angrily strike his mother. The young child has not matured to a point
where he can understand responsibility, weigh values, and make conscious
decisions based on moral or social worth, but he certainly can mimic the
criminal mind.
TOWARD UNDERSTANDING
What is happening? A short time ago the adults around this child
would have given him anything he wanted, including their own lifesustaining food. Now they are beginning to expect a little giving on his
part. But he doesn’t want to give. Taking has been his way of life from
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We adults, sensing the capabilities of children, expect them to
give and take at a level appropriate to their maturity. When they fall
behind our expectations, we become irritated. Children NEVER make a
smooth transition from the utterly dependent and self-centered state to the
socially-conscious give-and-take state.
We are delighted when the three-month-old grabs food from
our hand and stuffs it into his mouth, but let a three-year-old try it, and
it is not so cute. We are delighted when a three-year-old interrupts our
conversation with a tale of his own, but a nine-year-old is expected to
say “Excuse me,” and wait for an appropriate time to participate in the
conversation.


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